Age-related macular degeneration is one of the main causes of loss of vision in elderly people. This condition starts with a dry form, in which people start to find that their central vision gets blurry. In some cases, macular degeneration progresses to the more serious wet form, which can cause irreversible vision loss, so it's important to do what you can to prevent macular degeneration and get treatment as early as possible if you should develop this condition.
Stop Smoking, or Better Yet, Don't Even Start
If you smoke, stop. Smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration. Current and previous smokers also can't take the original AREDS supplements found to help limit the progression of macular degeneration because of a potential increased risk of lung cancer from the beta-carotene. Smokers can take the AREDS2 formula, however.
Wear Sunglasses That Protect Against All Types of UV Rays
Exposure to bright sunlight on a regular basis may damage the eyes and increase the risk of macular degeneration as you get older, so wear sunglasses. Even better, wear both a hat and sunglasses that specifically protect against "blue" light.
Get Regular Eye Exams
While you may not enjoy getting your eyes dilated, this type of eye exam is the best way to catch the early signs of age-related macular degeneration. The sooner treatment starts, the less overall damage to your vision you're likely to experience. Early treatment may even make some vision restoration possible.
Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control
High blood pressure is another condition that tends to increase as people get older. However, this condition can cause a decrease in the blood flow reaching the eyes and increase the risk of macular degeneration.
Keep Cholesterol at a Healthy Level
Having high cholesterol can also be a risk factor for macular degeneration. High cholesterol may make it more likely that dry macular degeneration will progress to the more dangerous wet form, perhaps because the cholesterol may narrow blood vessels and make it harder for necessary nutrients to reach the eyes.
Studies have shown that getting regular exercise helps keep macular degeneration from progressing from the dry form to the wet form. Exercise will also help you maintain a healthier weight and limit your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two of the other risk factors for macular degeneration.
Choose Fish Containing Omega-3s Instead of Red Meat
Some research points to an increased risk of macular degeneration from eating red meat and a decreased risk of this condition in people who eat fatty fish containing omega-3s at least twice a week. This dietary change makes sense as red meat may increase cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol is a risk factor for macular degeneration.
Eat Foods Rich in Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that may help limit the risk of eye problems, including macular degeneration. Egg yolks, leafy green vegetables, winter squash, kiwi, yellow and orange bell peppers, grapes, corn, and zucchini are all sources of these nutrients.
Opt for Foods with a Lower Glycemic Index
Choosing foods with a lower glycemic index may lower the risk of macular degeneration, according to Allen Taylor, MD. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are typically lower on the glycemic index, which measures how much a particular food affects blood sugar levels. Sugary and processed foods typically have a higher glycemic index.
Consider Following the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthier diet options around, consisting of eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and seafood and limiting foods that are high in fat and sugar. This diet appears to decrease the risk of macular degeneration compared to the standard American diet and may also help limit the risk of other health problems.
Contact Dr. Evans and Dr. Carter Optometry for answers to any questions you may have about your risk of macular degeneration. The staff there can also help you with any other eye issues that might be concerning you.